Years ago before vinyl was an option for new or replacement windows, everyone had aluminum storm windows. You might say that we were tricked into believing that vinyl models were better just because they were newer. But the reality is, vinyl never replaced windows in most commercial and industrial applications because of the sturdy material. Vinyl does have its place as far as providing a better insulating factor on residential primary windows but for other areas of overall performance, you cannot beat aluminum.
The choice of aluminum windows in an industrial application tells you that the functioning of aluminum is superior. Aluminum has a good ratio when comparing strength versus weight. Vinyl has a very low mass whereas aluminum has a high mass. Combined with heavy glass, a commercial building knows that it has a solid, unrelenting window for their business with aluminum.
A far greater advantage with aluminum, however, is its ability to stop more outside noise than vinyl is capable of. In order for vinyl to stifle noise to the same degree as aluminum, it would have to have a thickness of 3 inches compared to aluminum's 1 1/8 inch thickness.
Studies have been conducted to show the difference between aluminum and vinyl framed windows with respect to noise penetration using single and dual paned glass. Aluminum won hands down. Although aluminum may not provide a low mass that is perfect for insulating, a large mass is great for creating a sound barrier.
Many vinyl window salespeople may argue the point that aluminum cannot prevent sound density because aluminum transfers noise. This is an untrue statement when used in the context of aluminum-framed windows. Aluminum alone may possess sound transfer but not combined with a mass object such as glass.
Try this test for clarity of the principal behind mass transfer. Tap a wine glass with a spoon. Notice how the glass rings? Now pick up the glass and tap with the spoon. Because the glass is secured by another object, your hand, the sound is not transferred. The same principal can be used for any such object known to carry sound.
Aluminum windows that act as storm or secondary windows provide both soundproofing and added insulation over wood or vinyl windows in a residential setting. Homes that have large picture windows or walls of glass will always choose aluminum windows for a blended effect with the structure. This is aluminum's finest example.
Besides being durable and sound resistant, aluminum-framed windows are maintenance free and have been proven to outlast vinyl that will crack and fade over time. Many aluminum frames come in colors to match your exterior for a seamless look to your windows. Aluminum was never replaced with vinyl; just forgotten how beneficial it was and still is.